Monday, September 13, 2010

A Soggy Stretch (and the potential perils of Geo-engineering)

The "Wizometer"? Sounds like something an overzealous doctor might use. No, it's not THAT. TV meteorologists in Atlanta are trying to outdo each other with a "simple", catchy rating system that sums up tomorrow's expected weather with a single number, from 1 to 10 (or from 1 to 11, if you happen to be doing the weather on Channel 11 in Atlanta). Useful or gimmicky? I know I don't have clean hands here: in the winter we sometimes use the "Hassle Factor" to predict how nasty the morning/evening commute will be, based on expected snow/ice, temperatures and wind chill. But the Wizometer may rank right up there with naming winter storms (like the Grand Forks Herald newspaper attempted a few years back). I'm all for simplicity, but hearing talk of a Wizometer just makes me want to excuse myself and duck into the nearest restroom. More from the Atlanta Journal Constitution here.

Waterspout! This Twitter photo was taken in Honduras. Less violent than tornadoes, waterspouts rely less on wind shear, and more on extreme instability to spin up - producing wind speeds as high as 60-80 mph, strong enough to flip boats and terrify/amaze onlookers on the beach.

Igor (and "Karl"?) Severe category 4 Hurricane Igor can be seen in the lower right corner of this (visible) satellite image - the area of disturbed weather south of Cuba is being monitored for possible intensification. Conditions may be favorable for this tropical wave to strengthen into Tropical Storm Karl in the new few days - a potential threat to the Gulf of Mexico by next weekend.

Cat 5 Potential? Hurricane Igor is a very powerful category 5 storm - yesterday sustained winds were 150 mph, with gusts to 175 mph, a central pressure around 27.30" of mercury. Roughly the size of the state of Texas Igor is still predicted to turn to the north, then northeast, avoiding the east coast of the USA - but Bermuda may still come very close to a direct hit by the weekend. Click here to see one of the most impressive satellite close-ups I've ever seen, data from the CIMSS Satellite Blog at the U. of Wisconsin.

Award-Winning Astronomy Photos. If you have an appreciation for the nighttime sky (which can be quite a treat here in Minnesota, especially during the dark, moon-free nights of autumn) you may want to click on this link to see the best of the best astronomy-related photographs.


Paul's Conservation MN Outlook for the Twin Cities and all of Minnesota:

Today: Mostly cloudy, breezy and cooler - a few light showers/sprinkles. Winds: NE 10-15. High: 65

Tuesday night: Lingering clouds - drying out (temporarily). Low: 49

Wednesday: Still gray - heavier/steadier rain by afternoon and evening. High: near 60

Thursday: Wet start, then slow clearing during the day. High: 66

Friday: A mix of clouds and sun, still cooler than average. High: 64

Saturday: Clouds increase, chance of a shower or two. High: 63

Sunday: Overcast and cool, periods of rain possible - probably the wetter day of the weekend. High: 62

Monday: Still bleak, periods of rain linger. High: near 60

Predicting the weather (especially in Minnesota, where all the various airmasses over North American tend to come together to PARTY) is fraught with peril & danger - it's incredibly frustrating at times, especially during the fall and spring, when we transition between seasons. Weather systems move along much faster, and (often) the computer models we rely on for any prediction beyond 36 hours have trouble keeping up with the accelerating rate of changes. We get 4 new computer runs/daily, and the flip-flopping that often shows up in the 7-Day Outlook is a direct result of a new run coming in - and contradicting the previous run. What we look for as meteorologists is something called "continuity" (ie: all the weather models pretty much agree on the SAME SOLUTION). This is more likely to happen during the relatively quiet summer months, than in autumn, winter or spring.

Case in point: Sunday the computer models were killing a storm predicted for Wednesday, shutting off the moisture supply, hinting at a quick round of showers, but little else. Then along comes the 12z run Monday morning which prints out a whopping 2.8" of rain for the PM hours Wednesday (last night's 00z run printed out a more reasonable 1.5"). What do you believe? I want to see a few more computer runs, see if there is any sense of continuity or consistency - but our on-again/off-again storm seems to be on again for tomorrow. Watering the lawn or garden should be optional again this week.

Clouds roll in today, a cool northeast wind keeping us in the 50s and low 60s most of the day, a chance of showers and sprinkles, especially this morning. Any rainfall amounts should be light, the latest NAM model prints out only .03" this morning as a weak upper-level disturbance (a wrinkle of cold air aloft) drifts overhead. It should be mostly-dry for after-school activities later today into the evening hours - cloudy, damp, but dry.

The main event comes Wednesday and Wednesday evening, but trying to predict precisely where the heaviest rain bands will set up is an exercise in futility. Some towns could easily pick up 1-2"+ rains, while other neighborhoods (especially over the northern half of Minnesota) see less than a quarter inch or so. It will definitely feel more like October than September out there. Time to start lugging shorts/t-shirts/sandals to the basement, attic or garage (although I'm still pretty convinced we'll see more 70s, maybe a few more 80s). I'll eat my clicker if we see any more 90s though - I think that's it for "stinking hot."

Skies clear Thursday and Friday as drier air pushes south out of Canada, but a return northward flow of warmth and moisture will increase the potential for showers Saturday, maybe another ill-timed period of steadier, heavier rain by Sunday and Monday of next week. No, next weekend will NOT be in the same league as last weekend. Looks like I'm going to be making excuses.

Great weather to check out some of the homes on the Parade of Homes tour (which goes into early October, over 325 homes in all different prices ranges around the expanded metro area). For more on the P.O.H. click here.

Monster Puddles? The latest NAM/WRF model valid Wednesday around the dinner hour shows bands of moderate/heavy rain setting up over central and southern MN - printing out 1.5" of rain tomorrow afternoon and tomorrow evening. We'll see, but after-school activities tomorrow may be a real mess. Any showers today should be light (probably under .10" of rain), but clouds combined with a raw northeast breeze will keep highs stuck in the low to mid 60s, about 10 degrees cooler than average for the 14th day of September. Tomorrow, with heavier/steadier rain developing by afternoon/evening highs may have trouble reaching 60 across much of Minnesota - it may look and feel more like early October out there. Not sure we'll see 1-2" of rain, but a cool inch or so is possible as an area of low pressure tracks directly over central and southern Minnesota. Definitely have a Plan B for later today, and a Plan B, C and D for tomorrow.

Wall of Flames. Nothing like a 100 foot wall of flames moving at 40 mph to put occasional random tornadoes and floods into stark perspective. The new "Loveland" fire outside Boulder has scorched an area of 600+ acres, roughly 1 square mile. Two major blazes in less than a week have severely damaged or destroyed at least 166 homes in the Boulder area, hundreds have been evacuated from their homes. Authorities are looking into whether sparks from a residential fire pit may have sparked the latest blaze. The very latest on what's turning out to be a very bad wildfire season here.

Five Years After Katrina, New Orleans is Older, Wealthier & Less Diverse. An interesting article from Nielson, which has been tracking population trends in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, which inundated vast areas of the Gulf coast little more than 5 years ago, the deadliest hurricane since 1928 for the USA. New Orleans dropped from the 35th largest "market" in 2000 to the 46th largest as of 2010. Other trends: wealthier neighborhoods were able to recover from the floods much faster than some of New Orlean's poorer sections - new additions to town tend to be older, and a bit wealthier than a decade ago. More on New Orleands, post-Katrina, here.

Tennessee Flood Victims Face Long Road To Recovery. The 1-in-500 year floods that swept through metro Nashville earlier this year have left long, deep scars in hundreds of neighborhoods around the city. Nearly 800 families have yet to return to their homes, and kids seem to be bearing the brunt of the psychological trauma - something akin to what some soldiers face, a version of PTSD, or post-traumatic stress disorder. More on the clean-up underway in the Nashville area here.

Snapshot of Arctic Sea Ice. NASA satellites use microwave energy to measure the extent (and thickness) of arctic sea ice, which usually reaches a minimum in September. Last year the minimum sea ice came on September 12, the 3rd least ice measured since microwave readings were first started in 1979. Minimum ice this year? We should know more in the coming days.

Melting Sea Ice Forces Walruses Ashore in Alaska. Tens of thousands of walruses are coming ashore over northwestern Alaska. The reason? The ice they normally rest on has melted - it's gone. Scientists say this is highly unusual, it's happened only 2 times before: 2007 and 2009. But how can this happen, 3 times in 4 years, since global warming is such an obvious hoax and scientific conspiracy? These photos must have been doctored! Scandalous! Baffling. More from USA Today here.

Can Geo-engineering Stop Global Warming? I know what we can do to stop climate change in its tracks! We can "levitate engineered particles of sulfuric acid - as well as a direct injection of sulfuric particles into the atmosphere!" Sounds like something Dr. Frankenstein might dream up (on a bad day). Yes, some scientists are giving serious thought to how we might curb warming - by injecting more man-made chemicals into the sky. Makes perfect sense to me. More on one of the biggest hair-brained schemes I've ever heard in my life here.

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